Effecting The Force

April 27, 2007

One of the areas in games that is crucial, but maybe overlooked sometimes, is the effects. From hearty explosions and muzzle flashes to motion blur and smoke, they all help make the gameplay experience that much more impactful. In a Star Wars game, as with the movies, effects are paramount. As we all know, George Lucas helped revolutionize effects in Episode IV: A New Hope way back in 1977. Until that time there wasn't a lot of attention paid to effects -- they were pretty much a means to an end. In the gaming arena, however, effects have always played a huge part in providing the visceral impact that the medium demands.

In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the team is striving to raise the bar to deliver movie-quality effects. As much as possible, we want gamers to feel as if they are living the adventure unfolding before their controller, and with the added processing power of the next-gen platforms it is now possible to bring movie-quality effects and lighting to games. One of the advantages that we have at LucasArts is that we're a part of the same company, Lucasfilm, which owns Industrial Light and Magic (just in case you didn't already know). And for the first time in the histories of the two companies, LucasArts and ILM are teaming up to co-develop tools that will enable Star Wars: The Force Unleashed to feature polished effects, the likes of which have only been hinted at in previous games.

As with most things in the development cycle, there are varying degrees of complexity involved in creating effects. Something as simple as a blaster bolt can take a few minutes to create, whereas something like Sith lightning could take longer to perfect in-game. And there are times still where the team has to create a specific tool to deliver a specific effect. When it's all said and done, it is estimated that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed will feature more than 1,000 new effects. In the next installment of my Production Diary, I will be speaking with FX Artist Tim Nice to get step-by-step account of what it takes to create some of the basic effects you will see in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, as well as run through the process of getting those effects into the game.

- Brett Rector    

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