When most people think of Star Wars, they think of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, and The Force. At the very end good triumphs over evil, and everyone on the good side is happy. A seedier side of the Star Wars universe exists, but it hasn’t gotten much exposure in gaming like it has in book form. Lucasarts decided that they wanted to move in a whole new direction by allowing the user to play as a bounty hunter in the upcoming Star Wars 1313.
Most developers work on projects with their own internal teams of artists, audio creators, and animators. Lucasarts has taken it to the next level, incorporating the assistance of Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Sound, and Lucasfilm Animation. They knew that expectations of any Star Wars game would be high, so they wanted to incorporate the best resources they had into this game.
That doesn’t mean that the transition has been completely smooth. For instance, the animators have been very helpful in making cloth, physics, and motion capture more realistic, but these same animators are used to being able to take 10 hours to render those item. Now, these animators are trying to work with the requirement that their beautiful work render at 30 frames per second. They are finding a good balance by coordinating and collaborating with one another to make the game that raises the cinematic presentation to a level normally reserved for billion dollar movies.
During the production process the developers wanted to make sure that they were able to get the highest graphical fidelity out of motion capture possible, not only with the movement of the characters but their facial expressions as well. While they experimented with trying to capture a person in a chair while capturing their expressions, when they put the motion captured head on the character the movement was unnatural. To fix this solution they used a contraption that put two cameras next to each actors’ head. As they walked around, these cameras would pick up microexpressions such as a quick glance or a roll of the eye. The camera could pick up the skin around the eyes and use that to tell the direction the eyes were moving. The production we saw was rendered completely in real-time, and the results are amazing.
Star Wars 1313 is set on Coruscant a long, long time ago. The rings of Coruscant aren’t actually around the planet, but inside of it. The number 1313 represents the number of levels down from the surface of the planet – an area run down with rampant crime. You won’t find any Jedi or mention of the Force out in these parts; this is the world of bounty hunters. This means that the developers can create even more sinister characters, as well as other unsavory types with questionable moral code.
While we did see some gameplay, the main character we saw was a test character that they used for testing the motion capture technology. They aren’t ready to talk about the storylines and characters in the game, which is too bad really – the interaction between the two characters showed they already had a great rapport with each other. You can decide for yourself as you check out our video of the game in action.
In the demo it appears the two characters have been hired to deliver a piece of cargo containing some living alien in stasis. Apparently this is an important alien, because a gang attacks the ship by attaching a tether to it. While the main characters are able to fend off the initial boarding party, a droid is able to attach a tether to the ship and board it. It uses the ensuing explosion and chaos to drag the cargo box to their ship. This doesn’t sit well with your partner, so he finds an alien and puts it into the escape pod, along with a thermal detonator. Once the pod is launched, it crashes into the nearby ship and causes half of it to explode. With a crass remark, he departs the ship, leaping to the enemy vessel.
To save themselves, the two of them must zipline onto the quickly descending ship and make their way for the hull. Your partner is able to leave and get onto a stable piece of the ship. You aren’t as lucky, and you end up bouncing around on the ship until you grab hold of the wing. Unfortunately the damage from the exploding escape pod causes it fall apart. Luckily you are able to grab onto a piece of the wing at the last minute (comparisons to Uncharted become somewhat obvious here) and slowly climb up to the top of the ship.
While the look is all Star Wars, the art and ships are all new. You have never seen this area before in any game or book, and just looking at the style tells you that this game fits squarely in the universe. The blaster fire, the hum of the ships, and the cinematic sound are all great evidence of the presence of Skywalker Sound.
The demo we saw looked great, and it was in all honesty too short – a good sign when the jaded press want more. All of us in the room were salivating at the potential of this title. Sure, it might feel strange that there aren’t any Jedi in the game, but playing life as a bounty hunter should be more interesting and gratifying. No release date has been announced yet for Star Wars 1313, but we speculate that the very earliest for this title would be sometime in the second half of 2013. Enjoy our trailer for the game – I think you’ll be as blown away as we were.