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

 

OPM: The character this time is a bounty hunter rather than a Jedi, which is kind of a rarity. So presumably, that presents you with a fairly different challenge – in terms of balancing the player’s power – to what you’ve done before? How have you approached giving the player the right amount of power?

DR I’m so glad you asked that.  That kind of demi-god complex that you’d expect from a Jedi game is definitely one vision of what playing in the Star Wars universe could be like, but we wanted to go with something with a much more relateable hero character, somebody much more grounded. That meant ultimately – at the [game’s] core – having a character who’s bound by human ability, but then still gets to do amazing things through his gear, gadgets and how he gets to use the level design and the environment.

It’s just a completely different equation – and the cool thing about that is that you can go for much more visceral, exciting gameplay with a guy that you know can die. It’s just something that fits really well with this kind of dangerous criminal underworld, knowing that you’re under that threat and having that live in the combat and the death-defying platforming, as well. It all starts coming together really well.

OPM And with him being a bounty hunter as well, I guess it’s all about the money. Is there an element of collecting currency, spending it, salvaging things? Or is it more of a narrative game?

DR This first version will be definitely more narrative-driven. So there will be an upgrade path, a progression in the things you get to play with – that’s our big extra chunk of gameplay breadth that we’re bringing to this genre. But it’s all very tied to the narrative. One of the cool things that you have with these story-driven games is the opportunity to tie gameplay benefits to narrative moments, so that you can subconsciously underwrite the player’s connection to something that’s going on in the story, or a relationship that you want to have meaning with a character. You can subtly underwrite that by giving the player cool things from these characters. Or [you can also add] meaning to something that you get to play with in the game [by] connecting it to a narrative twist or something like that. So it’s not an RPG where you get to pick and choose how you upgrade, but we’re trying to be clever about how you connect all of the upgrade paths that you are on to the story and the narrative.

OPM Is this going to necessitate other game studios going to a cinematic effects house just to keep up with the pace? Do you think that this is really going to blur the boundaries now?

DR We never set out to change the way anything is done. It was more like, ‘Look at all the things we have access to, and what do people expect from a LucasArts game knowing that we’re right next to ILM and LucasSound and LucasAnimation. What can we do that makes sense for the game?’ And a lot of the innovations that we’re discovering from a production standpoint have just emerged from that, rather than this sort of top-down, you-guys-should-be-working-together-because-it-makes-sense [standpoint] . It does make sense, but it’s only got to the point where it’s at because of what the game needed.

I kind of feel that there’s innovation to be had whenever you look at a problem that way, so I wouldn’t necessarily say that everyone should start doing it the way that we’re doing it. We’ve got a solution that fits the needs of the game and what we’ve got access to – and again, I kind of feel that, whatever situation you’re in, you need to look at what you have available and make the most creative use of what you have. Until we start seeing people trying to do that and maybe not making it, it’s hard to know whether there’s only one way to do it. I always think there’s more than one way to do things