Finishing touches go on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Finishing touches go on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
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Krome is busy putting finishing touches on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. We spoke to them about the game, Krome's new Merkury3 engine and more.

The LucasArts game lets you indulge your dark side as Darth Vader's Secret Apprentice, and is set in the era between Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, and Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. The goal? To "rid the universe" of Jedi. Highlights will include appearances by Vader, the Wookiee homeworld of Kayshyyyk, and an imperial TIE construction facility.

The game will be released on September 16 in the Us and September 17 in Australia, both on Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP and Wii.

Ahead of Gen Con, the Brisbane-hosted game convention beginning July 3rd, PC Authority caught up catches up with Steve Stamatiadis, the Creative Director at game development studio, Krome, which is devleoping the PS2, PSP, and Wii versions of the game. Krome is busy putting finishing touches on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and we asked Stamatiadis about the game, Krome's new Merkury3 engine and more.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed has been a major undertaking for Krome. How long has the company been working on the games?
We’re just doing the final touches now because we’re about to go through final submissions with Sony and Nintendo so most of the team is now done with it. All up we’ll have worked on it for about two and a bit years. It hasn’t been a really long project, but it’s been a good length of time so we had plenty of time to try things out and really work out how to push the machines.

On the PlayStation 2 front we’ve really been able to push that machine insane amounts and it was the same with PSP. For Wii there was some learning around how the control scheme works... that was rather interesting! It’s not meant to be a light sabre game for Unleashed, but it was mixing that in with Force powers and getting that visceral experience and not just kind of waving the stick around like some other games we’ve seen.

Being an Australian company, how did Krome come to work on Unleashed in the first place?
A lot of it comes down to reputation and delivering games on time and working with a number of publishers. One of the guys we’d worked with previously, a publisher, was actually at LucasArts and so our name came forward through that. It literally all happened the day after we came back from a Christmas break. We were asked if we wanted to work on a project with them, and we were ‘sure! What is it?’ So we get this email back and it said Star Wars Force Unleashed. Straight away we all just wanted to do this game. A lot of developers early on used to have this attitude that developers were evil and weren’t needed but they’re not at all. You just work with them in order to make the best game possible. It’s a partnership, and that’s the way to make a game.

With such a big franchise, it must be under some scrutiny from LucasArts. What role did they play in ensuring it remained true to the Star Wars universe?
I think most people assume they’d be really difficult to work with, but they were really great. The storyline actually came from one of the guys at Lucas, Hayden Blackman with Lucas himself, so it got the stamp of approval! When we came on board, they just wanted us to take the stories, and characters and levels and make the best game we could for the various consoles we were working on. It also came to the point where Hayden said, ‘we’re happy with the levels, now we want you to come up with new stuff. Don’t feel like you need to regurgitate old Star Wars stuff, we want you to add to the Star Wars universe.’ So they were very supportive. That’s kind of scary when you think about it, but with that kind of support it was awesome.

When we first started it was a bit scary but after that anxiety it was cool – we were confident in our love of Star Wars – we’d been fans ourselves for thirty years. We realised we knew our stuff better than anybody, so once we got past that it was game on. LucasArts gave us tons of stuff to reference. We had a couple of GB worth of materials, every movie. I’d ask them for reference pics of say Admiral Akhbar... you wouldn’t just get one shot. You’d get like, fifty different shots in different costumes. That was the best part of it to be honest, it was fun coming up with all the new stuff.

Was it a difficult exercise in logistical terms, being in Australia?
Not at all. And because we’re offset by a few hours from the States... when we came in in the mornings, it would be when they’re finishing up their day. So when we were talking with the Producer they’d be able to give us feedback or let us know of any problems that may have come up which we mean we could work on it during their night time. It’s really a faster turnaround then what you’d have working within the States.

Even if we worked with a publisher in Sydney, we wouldn’t see them every day and we’d be working via email and phone so it’s the same deal. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to get a trip to San Francisco to visit Skywalker Ranch!

The game is said to be set between III and IV. How stringent is the story guidelines and key aspects that LucasArts deliver to Krome?
There was a lot of talk between Hayden and George Lucas about what the story needed to be. They’d been working on it for a couple of years already and they’d gone down a couple of different paths and looked at different concepts for different characters. Because this is set between those Episodes, it was a big deal for LucasArts so Unleashed definitely went through a long and big process...

The myriad of new characters... were these already fully fleshed out in terms of who/what they are once it has been received by Krome?
Say for one of the characters, Juno Eclipse. We got the original concept art, reference art of the facial scans of Nathalie Cox, who’s the actress who plays Juno. There was videos of them talking, we even had the models that the next-gen guys built for the characters... we had full access to all the internal LucasArts stuff pretty much.

Which platform would you say was the easiest to develop for in the end?
They were all hard because they all had their own little challenges. PSP had the multiplayer stuff, Wii had the controller and PS2 was about pushing the hell out of the machine. I guess the Wii was easiest because it was most powerful but the controller had its own hassles. We really pushed those machines to do stuff.

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