Brett's Production Diary #3A Tale of Many Storylines
March 1, 2007
In the last diary, I wrote about how the team solidified the vision for "The "Force Unleashed" -- the over-the-top Force powers that make up the core of the game. In this installment, I want to discuss how the team arrived at the main character and the time period.
One of the filters we have at LucasArts is that in addition to great gameplay there must be a great story to accompany the title we're making. And while we have an exceptionally compelling storyline for The Force Unleashed fully developed, it wasn't the first idea the team had for the game. In fact, the idea of playing Darth Vader's secret apprentice during the era between Episodes III and IV wasn't even among the first concepts the team came up with.
At the beginning of development -- the pre-production phase -- the team was presented with the challenge of generating many ideas for the next great Star Wars game. The goal was to develop several concepts that could be presented to the executive team, George Lucas, Star Wars fans, and gamers for feedback. Some ideas never made it past the brainstorming phase, while others received a healthy bit of attention, including detailed concept art, story overviews, and even pre-vis animations. Some of the concepts that survived long enough to be discussed with George Lucas included a story about the early heroes of the Rebellion, a game centered on a superheroic Wookiee character, and a game featuring a gadget-wielding mercenary. George provided a ton of insightful and helpful feedback, helping the team to pick and choose features and story elements from a variety of the concepts. Some of the ideas were also tempered by George because they either didn't fit his vision for Star Wars or were in line with things he has considered for the future (perhaps dealing with the animated series, or possibly the live-action show -- you'll have to wait a little while for that information).
One of the most exciting things to come out of these early meetings was the era in which the game would take place. George fully supported setting the game in the time period between Episodes III and IV. This was a huge boon for the project because this was an era that was previously untouchable by any licensed Star Wars projects -- no books, comics, or games had ever really explored this fertile time period. We were excited about it because it gave us an opportunity to craft a story that could truly be seen as the next chapter in the Star Wars saga, show events that had only been referenced (such as Darth Vader's hunt for the last of the Jedi), and include some familiar characters in key roles. Once the team was able to hone in on this historical point in time, it was up to the group to collaborate on what story we would tell and how we would tell it.
The next big milestone in the development of the story was the creation of the main character. At George's prompting, the team was motivated to develop a brand new protagonist. Based upon feedback from him, focus test respondents, the executive team at LucasArts, and others, the development team eventually rallied around the character of Darth Vader's secret apprentice. Over time, his backstory, personality, and motivations were solidified by the design team. The Apprentice has since become the perfect vehicle for a game all about the Force Unleashed -- wielding Force powers that are amped up and in some cases totally out of control.
Developing the Apprentice's appearance took many months of hard work by the talented concept artists on the team. Stay tuned for my next diary installment, where I'll go inside the concept art process and introduce you to some of the talented people who helped bring the vision for the game to life.
- Brett Rector